How to Stretch the Heel Cord & the Plantar Fascia

by Nick Ng, Demand Media
    Stretching can alleviate tension in your feet.

    Stretching can alleviate tension in your feet.

    You exercise faithfully every day -- running, aerobics classes and salsa dancing. Even though your heart and lungs are healthy and happy, your heel cord -- Achilles tendon -- and plantar fascia in the bottom of your feet may not feel the same way. These two body parts are part of a network of connective tissues that run from the bottom of your feet, through your hip and spine and into the back of your head. Sometimes, pain from your feet can cause emotional stress that shows up as migraines and other pain symptoms far from your feet. Stretching is one of many ways to alleviate discomfort in your heel cord and plantar fascia.

    Items you will need

    • 1-foot-long half-foam roller

    Toe Touch with Toe Raise

    Step 1

    Stand with your feet together and with the balls of your feet on top of a foot-long half-foam roller. Raise your hands over your head and take a deep breath.

    Step 2

    Exhale slowly and reach down to your toes. Bend your knees as much as you need to reach your toes. Hold this position for three deep breaths.

    Step 3

    Inhale and raise your body up slowly to the starting position. Do five to six reps for two to three sets.

    Downward Dog

    Step 1

    Kneel on the ground on your hands and knees with your wrists below your shoulders and your knees below your hip joints.

    Step 2

    Exhale and raise your buttocks in the air, shifting your weight toward your heels and straightening your legs. Hold this position for five to six deep breaths, relaxing your legs and lower spine. Bring your ribs closer to your thighs with each exhalation.

    Step 3

    Exhale slowly and return to the kneeling position. Repeat this exercise two to four more times.

    Standing Half Lunge

    Step 1

    Stand with your left foot in front of your right foot, about six inches apart.

    Step 2

    Exhale slowly and bend your knees as much as you can while keeping both heels on the ground. Hold the stretch in your back heel for one deep breath.

    Step 3

    Inhale slowly and stand straight up. Keep your hands near your belly during the exercise. Perform eight to 10 reps per side.

    Tip

    • Gently massage the bottom of your feet by running your thumb along the plantar fascia that runs along the arch of your foot toward your toes. Breathe deeply and slowly as you massage to minimize the painful sensation that may accompany the massage. Continue to massage until you feel some tension relief your foot. Use the same technique when you massage your heel cord.

    Warning

    • Never stretch beyond your range of motion, warns fitness author Ann Frederick. Overstretching can cause a stretch reflex, which causes your joints and muscles to contract quickly to protect themselves from tearing or dislocating. This can lead to tighter fascia and higher sensitivity to touch and movement.

    References

    • Stretch to Win; Ann and Chris Frederick
    • Anatomy Trains; Thomas Myers

    About the Author

    Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.

    Photo Credits

    • Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images